Saturday, November 28, 2009

"Four Seasons" final colors

I added the final few colors to the print project I'm working on today, and finalized the reduction woodcut "Four Seasons."

Earlier this week, I added a dark brown:

Over this, I added a dark green. The brookies finally swim free!

After two days of drying time, I added what became the final color: a deep, dark blue.

I had originally wanted to print a lighter dark blue, and then finish up with black. I decided my blue ink was too bright straight out of the can, and decided to tone it down a bit with orange. I over compensated, and came up with "nearly" black. I added the rest of the can of blue to this mess, and was able to come up with a very dark blue. It printed over the other colors dark enough to call "black", and printed around the snowflakes light enough to call "blue."


"Four Seasons" (final)

As with all my prints, there is a certain level of "mortality": because these are hand done, I bothced a few.

The biggest culprit with this print was keeping a handle on the registration of all those colors. The darker the colors get, the worse a mis-alignment shows. With the lighter colors, you can get away with a mis-aligned print or two, but when printing near-black, even the slightest shift will show horribly. One of the rejects above was caused by a stupid, half crazed housefly that landed on my ear as I flipped the block/paper over to burnish it. With another, I coughed as I laid the inked block onto the image... after starting with 24 sheets of paper, 18 prints total made it all the way through to the end.

These rejects will be ceremoniously burned later this winter.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Over the weekend, I made good progress on the latest reduction print, "Four Seasons." Just when I think I'll never get through all the colors that need to be printed, I suddenly realize I'm on the home stretch. I've only got a few colors left to go on this print, and then it will be done.

I've come to the point where the details are really starting to take shape. Two more colors, a deep dark red and a dark green, are all thats left for the Spring section of the print.

Except for a dark brown, the Fall leaves are pretty much done.

Summer's honey comb is finished (and looking great, I'll add...) All that's left is some black on the honey bee.

The two brookies need a dark blue-green along their backs, which I'll echo in the Spring and Fall backgrounds. The snowflakes will get a rich, dark blue background to finish them off.

The very last color will of course be black. Most of the block will be carved away; only some outlines will remain. Sort of sad, looking back on all the work it is to carve the block, but the results are worth it.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

More colors

I managed to add a few new colors to the print "Four Seasons."

After letting the previous two layers dry completely, I added the third background color, a pale yellow/tan, to serve as a base to the honey comb and the fall leaves. Since it was coloring a separate area of the print, I was able to immediately add a layer of darker pink to the flowers. I let those colors dry overnight, then followed up with a stronger yellow/gold to the leaves/honey comb areas.

The final color I added today was a darker pale green. I've come to the point to where I've pulled out my smallest brayer to selectively ink individual sections of the block. This helps avoid unnecessary ink build up.

The previously "ugly" garish easter-egg colors are starting to meld together and work nicely. A detail shows hows the colors are working together - the green, being slightly transparent, turns a nice golden brown over the pink of the flowers. Because its being used in the trout, it will help anchor the two image objects together.

I'll let these colors dry for a couple days. I've got a lot of carving to do on the block before I can start thinking about printing it again.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Four Seasons: first colors

I printed the first two colors of the print, Four Seasons.

After first carving out everything on the block I wanted left white, I mixed up a batch of ink and spread it out on my inking plate (a smooth piece of polished granite.) Using a soft rubber roller, or brayer, I spread an even thin coat on the wooden plate.

To print the plate, I first lay the block onto a sized piece of block printing paper (mulberry paper made in Thailand):

The plate/paper is then flipped:

I then used a barren, or hand-press, to burnish the paper onto the plate. The idea is to create enough pressure on the paper to cause the ink to transfer from the block into the fibers of the paper:

Satisfied I've covered all the areas with ink, I can then slowly pull the paper from the plate:

The results are always fun to see:

And so the printing process goes... I've decide to "pull" 24 prints from this block, so after going through the steps described above 24 times, it's time to decide on the next color.

I keep a series of print-outs of the images I'm using for this print, my "color maps." To decide on the next color, I pull one of them out now.

I'll print the lightest pink of the flowers now. Even though it will get covered up, it will act as a good background color for the two trout, and for the autumn leaves at the bottom.

But first, I need to clear away everything I want left light green. A small, sharp hand chisel and mallet make short work of the job:

Once the plate is ready, the inking/pressing/pulling process continues. This time, the image starts to slowly emerge:

With two layers of ink, I'll leave the prints overnight to dry completely until I add more.

In truth, the pink is pretty ugly printed over the green right now. It will stay that way as I add layers of colors, until the darker colors separate yet unite the disparate blobs of color together into the finished piece.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Four Seasons - Progress

It took awhile, but I was finally able to find and transfer the different images onto the block for the latest woodcut, which I've entitled (simply enough) "Four Seasons."

My good friend Jon Jacobs contacted me on behalf of Kiap-TU-Wish TU, and asked if I'd like to donate something for this years banquet. I like Kiap, and have contributed and benefited from the terrific work they've done to the streams that I fish. So while I don't put in as much as I used to (I was the habitat projects coordinator for a number of years, back before there were kids...), I'm gladly donating another print to the cause.

I'm hoping it to be this one.

This is one of them projects that you look at, and say to yourself "What was I thinking?"

I'm pretty sure I can do it, though, if I get to work and not get distracted by any more Indian summer days that whisper to me about double guns, setter puppies and grouse woods....

Monday, November 9, 2009

Please join us for an open studio, Sunday Dec 6th

Please join us for an open studio, Sunday Dec 6th

-just north of El Paso, Wisconsin-

South of Baldwin on Hwy 63
East (left) on Hwy 29E (1 1/2 mi)
South (right EXACTLY 2.5 mi)
N7107 County Rd N

John Turula ceramic and steel stools

Mark Nuebel

John and Sophie Koch

Margy Jean Balwierz

Margy's studio is open any day, please call ahead 715-778-4473

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

On to something new...

OK, so the last moku hanga didn't work out like I wanted. There's a number of things that I don't like about it, but there's a number of things that I do. The trick is now to figure out how to separate the two so it all comes together into a cohesive piece that I'm satisfied with. Well, that's the trick, isn't it?!

But, I've got a stack of ideas that I need to pursue.

I ran a reduction print several years ago of a brook trout surrounded by the stages of the moon, sky and mayflies. It was a very satisfying print personally, and it was well received:

I like the whole framed image as an image, so I'm going with that as a base. I'm most comfortable with reduction prints, so I'm going to go with my old standby of pulling reduction prints off from a single maple block again.

I'm thinking a couple trout this time, with the four seasons surrounding them. I pulled out my folder of images - pieces and parts of ideas that have made it to scrap paper - and started shuffling images around:

A bit of graphite paper, and I've got the start of an image:

More images for the rest of the border:

I'm liking this more and more as it goes....